Easing the Discomfort of Colonoscopy
WebMD News Archive
"The sedation makes one feel light-headed," Glenn Eisen, MD, MPH,
tells WebMD. Fortunately, the sedative that is used also causes amnesia,
"so the patient may well not remember the procedure," he says. Patients
having the procedure cannot be "put out" completely, as that would
require a breathing machine, Eisen says, and that carries greater risks than
the colonoscopy itself. Eisen is an associate professor of medicine and
director of endoscopy at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville,
Ever since Today Show host Katie Couric televised her own
colonoscopy, interest in the procedure has risen. However, colonoscopy isn't
the only way to screen for this disease, and it may not be needed by
Other screening methods for colon cancer include the fecal occult blood test
(FOBT), a test that can detect microscopic amounts of blood in the stool; the
flexible sigmoidoscopy ("flex sig"), which is much like the
colonoscopy, but explores a smaller amount of the large intestine; and the
double contrast barium enema, which uses dye inserted into the colon to make
tumors, benign or cancerous, visible on X-ray.
In previous research, Pignone found that the more informed patients are
about the examinations and the disease, the more likely they are to get early
screening. People need to know, he says, that "people over 50 are at risk,
[and] screening can reduce cancer cases and deaths."
According to the American Cancer Society, everyone should get an FOBT and a
flexible sigmoidoscopy at age 50. If the results are normal, the FOBT should be
repeated annually and the sigmoidoscopy every five years. Or, the patient could
then have a colonoscopy (repeated every 10 years if normal) and/or a
double-contrast barium enema (repeated every five to 10 years if normal)
People at high risk for colon cancer, such as those with a family history of
the disease, may need to start screening before age 50.
- Colonoscopy is a procedure in which a flexible, lighted instrument is
inserted into the anus to examine the colon. It usually requires sedation.
- A new study shows that normal sedation is just as effective as
- Colonoscopy is one of many tests that can be used to screen for colon
cancer; others include the fecal occult blood test, flexible sigmoidoscopy, and
contrast barium enema.